"Don't fear the penguins."
Matt Welsh has released a new version of his Installation and Getting Started guide, version 2.1.1. Also, the Linux Documentation Project (the LDP) has put out several other books in various states of completion, and these are available at sunsite.unc.edu:/pub/Linux/docs/LDP. Stay tuned to comp.os.linux.announce.
At least the following anonymous ftp sites carry Linux.
Textual name Numeric address Linux directory ============================= =============== =============== tsx-11.mit.edu 220.127.116.11 /pub/linux sunsite.unc.edu 18.104.22.168 /pub/Linux ftp.funet.fi 22.214.171.124 /pub/OS/Linux net.tamu.edu 126.96.36.199 /pub/linux ftp.mcc.ac.uk 188.8.131.52 /pub/linux src.doc.ic.ac.uk 184.108.40.206 /packages/linux fgb1.fgb.mw.tu-muenchen.de 220.127.116.11 /pub/linux ftp.informatik.tu-muenchen.de 18.104.22.168 /pub/comp/os/linux ftp.dfv.rwth-aachen.de 22.214.171.124 /pub/linux ftp.informatik.rwth-aachen.de 126.96.36.199 /pub/Linux ftp.Germany.EU.net 188.8.131.52 /pub/os/Linux ftp.ibp.fr 184.108.40.206 /pub/linux kirk.bond.edu.au 220.127.116.11 /pub/OS/Linux ftp.uu.net 18.104.22.168 /systems/unix/linux wuarchive.wustl.edu 22.214.171.124 mirrors/linux ftp.win.tue.nl 126.96.36.199 /pub/linux ftp.stack.urc.tue.nl 188.8.131.52 /pub/linux srawgw.sra.co.jp 184.108.40.206 /pub/os/linux cair.kaist.ac.kr /pub/Linux ftp.denet.dk 220.127.116.11 /pub/OS/linux NCTUCCCA.edu.tw 18.104.22.168 /Operating-Systems/Linux nic.switch.ch 22.214.171.124 /mirror/linux monu1.monash.edu.au 126.96.36.199 /pub/linux cnuce_arch.cnr.it 188.8.131.52 /pub/Linux
tsx-11.mit.edu and fgb1.fgb.mw.tu-muenchen.de are the official sites for Linux' GCC. Some sites mirror other sites. Please use the site closest (network-wise) to you whenever possible.
At least sunsite.unc.edu and ftp.informatik.tu-muenchen.de offer ftpmail services. Mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com- muenchen.de for help.
If you are lost, try looking at sunsite.unc.edu:/pub/Linux/distributions/, where several distributions are offered. Slackware is well-tested, being one of the most popular Linux distributions.
There are many BBS's that have Linux files. A list of them is occasionally posted to comp.os.linux.announce. Ask friends and user groups, or order one of the commmercial distributions. A list of these is contained in the Linux distribution HOWTO, available as sunsite.unc.edu:/pub/Linux/docs/HOWTO/distribution-HOWTO, and posted regularily to the comp.os.linux.announce newsgroup.
As mentioned at the beginning, Linux is not centrally administered. Because of this, there is no ``official'' release that one could point at, and say ``That's Linux.'' Instead, there are various ``distributions,'' which are more or less complete collections of software configured and packaged so that they can be used to install a Linux system.
The first thing you should do is to get and read the list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) from one of the FTP sites, or by using the normal Usenet FAQ archives (e.g. rtfm.mit.edu). This document has plenty of instructions on what to do to get started, what files you need, and how to solve most of the common problems (during installation or otherwise).